The Aeneid - Virgil
After having been tricked by the Greeks with the brilliant design of the Trojan Horse, Aeneas and his friends set out on the Mediterranean Sea to Italy in an effort to found Rome. Unfortunately Aeneas ended up in Carthage instead of Italy and met the Queen of Carthage, Dido. Dido falls in love with Aeneas, so when Aeneas left Carthage, she killed herself. Aeneas continues to Italy and visits the Underworld where he will foresee the future of all heroes in Rome. In the end of the story, Turnus, a local suitor, is killed by Aeneas which led to the victory of the Trojans.
The Aenid is a story of fate, power, and love. Throughout the poem we are constantly reminded that the fate of the Trojans was to found a city in Rome, and in the end they did. The power that the Trojans had was tremendous, and not just in warfare. Love is seen as powerful and unpredictable, which is obvious when Dido commits suicide out of love for Aeneas. The Aeneid has a continuous list of themes that make the story, but few are as important as these three.
Odes - Horace
We will venture into Horace's most famous poems from the Odes. Poem 10 from Book 1 states " Rectius vives, Licini, neque altum" – The Golden Mean – "The moderate life is the perfect life." "Pyrrha" is a poem about an inexperienced young girl caught in the hands of an unpredictable old woman. "Carpe Diem", quite obviously, is the poem in which the renown phrase "Carpe Diem" was coined. This poem is very similar to "Socrate", a story about Horace giving advice to a young boy named Thaliarchus, and telling him to make the most out of his limited existence. These are just a few of the numerous amount of poems that Horace wrote in just the Odes alone. To this day Horace has changed the face of lyric poetry and has shaped some of the most profound names in poetry. Horace's influence can be directly seen in many of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson's work, and even the work of Friedrich Nietzche. Horace will be forever remembered for his ability to craft powerful moral lessons in the form of a short, few-stanza, poem.
Rich in complexity, Horace's poems are very concise in size, but contain intricate themes. This combination of brevity of size and breadth of meaning is called "calida iunctura" or "skillful/artful joining." Although the Odes touch upon a wide range of topics, they all have a common theme. That theme is a moral or ethical lesson. Essentially each Ode is a maxim itself. Each book contains a wide selection of pithy aphorisms, most notably "Carpe Diem" (but we will get to that later). Book 1 contains 38 poems, Book 2 – 20, Book 3 – 30, and Book 4 – 15, for a total of 103 complete poems.
Midas/Daedalus and Icarus - Ovid
The Metamorphoses are meant to be a history of the creation of the earth from the to the death of Julius Caesar utilizing 250 Greek and Roman mythology mixed with historical fact. It is meant to portray how the Romans viewed the history and past. He himself sums up the poem in the opening lines, “My intention is to tell of bodies changed. To different forms; the gods, who made the changes, Will help me — or I hope so — with a poem. That runs from the world’s beginning to our own days.”
The stories of the Metamorphoses are meant to show a change (or metamorphosis) in the characters. Almost the entirety of the poem changes throughout the poem. Love is the other major theme and teaching point. He speaks of the power and influence that love asserts upon everyone. Hubris was also a major theme. The poems criticize and show the many weaknesses of uncontrollable hubris.